DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story belong to Shed Productions. I am borrowing them for entertainment purposes only and not for financial gain.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the authors.

Cloudy Skies
By Nico


Part 1

Nikki Wade ran round her living room cursing, she was late for work. Desperately trying to find her other shoe and car keys, whilst putting on her tie at the same time. She located the shoe and hastily put it on while still searching for the ever elusive set of keys. Finding them under the sofa, she wondered how they had gotten there but she didn't have time to stand around.

She grabbed her briefcase and ran out the door to her car. Flinging her jacket, hat and briefcase onto the back seat, she took off with her tires squealing. Nikki worked as a pilot for Larkhall International airlines, and was a co-pilot on the European routes. She had been a pilot for ten years now and enjoyed her job immensely; she had transferred over to Larkhall International a year ago and was anxious to prove herself with her new employers. She wanted to earn a promotion to captain, and have her own routes.

She pulled up into a parking space outside Heathrow's Terminal 2. She hurriedly donned her jacket and hat and checked her reflection in the car window. Grabbing her briefcase she made a mad dash into the airport and to the gate her flight would depart from. She arrived at the gate to find the rest of the crew standing there waiting to be admitted to the aircraft. She breathed a sigh of relief; at least she wasn't too late.

She had been assigned to this route a few weeks ago and was only just about getting to know the crew. The captain was Thomas Waugh, his wife Helen Stewart worked on this route too, and Nikki found she got on reasonably well with her. She found it a strange pairing, the Captain and the senior fight attendant. Thomas was a reasonably good looking guy, easy enough to get on with but lazy and prone to moods. "Just like any other guy," Nikki thought to herself. Helen.......... now she was a puzzle. What did she see in Thomas? Helen was much more the outgoing of the two, vivacious, always quick with a smile or a friendly word or two in that soft Scottish accent, and that figure in uniform! Nikki could see the attraction that drew Thomas to Helen no problem, but they were total opposites, "Ah well," she thought "I guess opposites DO attract."

Nikki tried to keep to herself for most of the time; she didn't want a repeat of what had happened on the last airline she worked for, so remained aloof, "The Ice Queen" had quickly become her nickname.

She greeted them all with a polite smile and for the rest of the time carried on looking through the terminal window to the planes moving about outside on the tarmac. The gate was at last opened by the ramp agent and then they all shuffled off to get things ready. Nikki completed the pre-flight checks with Thomas, and then got on board ready to file a flight plan. Once this was done she made her way down the plane to check with the various stewardesses that everything was present and correct. Just as she was about to go back onto the flight deck, she heard Helen calling her name.

"First Officer Wade, can you spare me a minute?" Helen smiled over at her.

"Sure what's the problem?"

"This oven is on the blink, will you take a look at it for me?"

"Course." Nikki set about twiddling with the oven; it was being stubborn and refused to heat up. She was almost at a loss as to be able to fix it and then decided she had tried everything but thumping it one. She did so and it had the desired effect, it pinged and started heating up.

"Thank you First Officer Wade," Helen replied with a dazzling smile.

"Call me Nikki." Nikki smiled slightly.

"Thanks again Nikki." Helen turned back to what she was doing, leaving Nikki free once more to return to the flight deck.

She climbed into her seat, and ran through the checklist as the passengers began to board. Eventually everyone was settled and they got clearance to push back from the terminal and taxi onto the outer taxiway. Stopping short of the end of the runway, Nikki requested permission to take off. The air traffic controller replied to her a short while later and gave her clearance.

She instructed the crew to take their seats ready for takeoff and then slowly eased the throttles forward. Lining up with the runway, she pushed the throttles to their limits and the plane lumbered forward, quickly gathering speed. Thomas called out the checklist as they went and Nikki gently eased back on the yoke, getting them airborne smoothly. As soon as they reached cruising altitude, she flipped the autopilot on and the seatbelt signs off.

Thomas excused himself almost immediately and left Nikki on the flight deck on her own. She thought he had probably gone to slobber all over Helen like he usually did. It wasn't unusual for him to disappear for long periods of time and leave Nikki alone in the cockpit; it was strictly against all the rules. However, Nikki didn't say anything and let it pass, feeling confident enough that she could be trusted to take care of everything.

Thomas came back a while later and Nikki excused herself to go get a coffee. She walked to the back of the plane and found Helen stashing the drinks trolley away.

"Hiya Nikki, what can I do for you?"

"Can I have a coffee please Helen?"

"Sure, two secs. Let me just take this drink to a passenger and I will be right back."

Helen reappeared a few moments later and set about getting Nikki a coffee. There was suddenly a bump as they flew through an air pocket and Helen staggered sideways into Nikki, who caught her before she fell over.

"Nearly went there." Nikki righted Helen.

"Nothing unusual for me, I can be a bit clumsy so Thomas reckons." Helen smiled and then quickly turned away.

"Lucky for you two that you managed to get on the same route."

"Yes it was. Thomas had a word with his friend in scheduling and managed to get me on his route."

"Well thanks for the coffee, I better be getting back." Nikki handed the cup back to Helen and made her way back up the aisle.

Helen stood watching the tall dark haired women as she walked away. She wasn't much of a talker, and Helen hardly knew anything about her. Helen wondered if maybe she could get her to open up a bit more, and decided to see if she would like to go to dinner that night with her and Thomas.

The plane lined up on final as Nikki flew the aircraft expertly down the glide slope, whilst watching the instruments like a hawk. It wasn't long before the plane bumped down on the runway and the roar of the engines could be heard as they were thrown into reverse thrust to slow the plane down. Nikki taxied to the terminal and went through the process of shutting the engines down. Once the passengers had disembarked and the paperwork was completed, she put her hat and jacket on and followed the rest of the crew down the tunnel from the aircraft into Charles de Gaul airport in Paris.

A shuttle bus took them to the airport hotel and Nikki went to her room and collapsed on the bed. Deciding she didn't feel like leaving the room, she cracked the minibar open and then perused the room service menu wondering what she would like to try.

Helen had just gotten out of the shower and Thomas had gone in after her, he wanted to join her but she told him she wasn't in the mood, which didn't please him much. He stormed into the shower in a sulk and Helen rolled her eyes at him, at times he could be so childish when he didn't get his own way. She picked up the phone and dialed Nikki's room; it rang several times before it was answered.

"Hiya Nikki, it's Helen. I just wondered if you fancied coming down to dinner with Thomas and I."

"I'm not really feeling in the mood but thanks anyway," she replied flatly. "Just what I don't need," Nikki thought, "To be reminded of what I don't have."

"Oh ok then no problem. Sorry to have disturbed you."

"You didn't, enjoy your meal. Bye." Nikki put the phone down before Helen had a chance to say anything.

"Oh well sod you then!" Helen put the phone back in the cradle and waited for Thomas to get out of the shower.

Thomas took Helen down to dinner and spent the entire meal not talking to her, no matter how much she tried to have a conversation with him. She eventually stormed off leaving him sitting there downing whisky, one glass after the other from the bottle he'd had the barman bring him.

At a loss for something to do, she decided to knock on Nikki's door. Nikki intrigued her, the woman was a mystery and she wanted to get to know her better even if that meant suffering some of Nikki's ice queen behaviour. Helen was a woman on a mission, and finding out about her new First Officer was that mission, she liked to be on friendly terms with all her staff, and Nikki Wade was not going to be an exception!

"Helen, what brings you here?" Nikki said as she opened the door.

"Thought you might like a bit of company," she replied and waved a bottle of wine at her.

"Yeah sure," Nikki said and opened the door not looking too happy at the intrusion but Helen strode into the room regardless.

"So Nikki, tell me a little bit about yourself," Helen said once the wine had been poured and they were seated.

"Nothing to tell."

"When did you decide to become a pilot?" Helen was finding it really hard work to talk to her but kept on trying.

"When I was fifteen, saw a programme on the TV and decided it was the job for me," she replied as she took a mouthful of wine.

"How long have you been a pilot?"

"Ten years," Nikki said not giving Helen much scope for carrying on the conversation.

"You haven't worked for Larkhall for long have you? Which airline did you work at before?"

"No just a year, before that I was at Imperial Air." Nikki drank back the rest of the wine; she wasn't enjoying the conversation and didn't like talking about herself.

"Really? I heard that's a nice airline to work for."

"Look I don't mean to be rude but I'm tired. Can we do this another time?" Nikki looked straight at her, leaving Helen in no doubt that she was in the way.

"Yeah ok, see you tomorrow." Helen placed her glass on the table and stood up.

"Night," Nikki said as Helen made it to the hallway.

"Night Nikki," Helen said as the door closed, and she was left standing all alone in the hallway.

"What the hell was that all about?" she thought, before giving in to the inevitable and returning to the room she shared with her husband to see what state he was in.


Part 2

Nikki was up early for the return flight to Heathrow, and sat flicking back and forth through the channels on the TV. When it was time to leave, she picked her things up and headed straight down to the lobby to check out. Without waiting for anybody else, she walked outside and got straight on the bus. She settled down and took a paperback from her briefcase.

Helen was standing in the lobby; she still wasn't speaking to Thomas. She had gotten back to the room last night to find him sitting on the bed waiting for her. They had had another argument, and Helen spent the rest of the night on the sofa while he snored loudly in the bed. She hated how Thomas behaved when he was drunk, there was just no reasoning with him. She unconsciously rubbed the top of her arm where Thomas had grabbed her last night as they argued. Looking at it in the mirror this morning, it was an ugly purple colour and it hurt whenever she moved. She sighed loudly

"Guess I'll have to be careful not to wear short sleeves for a while," she thought.

Having checked out, she left Thomas standing in the lobby and headed straight for the bus. She noticed Nikki sitting near the back and went straight to her and sat down, not wanting to be anywhere near Thomas.

"Morning," Helen said more enthusiastically than she felt.

"Morning." Nikki didn't bother to look up and carried on reading engrossed in her book. Helen took the hint and kept quiet. She tried to see what sort of novel an introverted woman like Nikki would read, but Nikki's hands obscured the title page.

"Must be good," she thought.

They got to the airport and found the departures lounge in chaos. There were hordes of people shouting and screaming at the ticket desk staff, demanding to know why there were so many delays. Thomas and Nikki went in search of a member of their airline staff.

"Excuse me," she said to a passing member of staff who looked harried.

"Yes mademoiselle?"

"Can you tell me what's going on with flight 244 to Heathrow?" Nikki fiddled with the collar on her shirt, as Thomas stood next to her, eying the woman's legs.

"There is a strike; the baggage handlers are having a dispute about pay increases and there will be no flights today. They are all cancelled," the member of staff then walked off to explain to a particularly noisy group of tourists who were demanding to know what was going on.

"Nice, another day off," smiled Thomas

"Looks like it's back to the hotel then," Helen said smiling at Nikki as she walked over to them, having overheard the last part of the conversation.

"Yeah," was all Nikki said before she made her way back outside the terminal. Helen stood there shaking her head; she wondered what the hell Nikki's problem was.

Helen got out of the lift and walked towards her hotel room with Thomas trailing behind. He was still in a sulk and Helen couldn't be bothered talking to him which made him worse. The first thing he did when he got into the room was to delve in the minibar, and pour himself a drink.

"Thomas for god sake it's 8am."

"And your point is?" he said as he downed the drink.

"My point being....oh never mind," she said as she flopped down into a chair.

"No come on, your point is what? you obviously felt so strongly about it that you had to open your mouth in the first place so have the balls and follow it through," he shouted at her.

"I can't talk to you when you're like this." Helen stood up and went to leave the room.

"Come back, you aren't going anywhere, you bitch," Thomas snarled at her, grabbing her arm again and causing her to cry out in pain.

"Thomas let go of me, you're hurting my arm!" Helen tried to pull her arm free but his grip intensified.

"You will sit down and shut up, one word out of you and-"

"And you'll what?" Helen glared at him.

He lashed out and backhanded her across the face, she held her hand to her cheek that was now red and stinging. She desperately tried to control the tears knowing it would make him angrier if she cried in front of him. She ran off to the bathroom and slammed the door locking it behind her. She sank down onto the floor and sobbed quietly.

"You're still my wife Helen, don't forgot that 'love, honour and obey stuff'," Thomas snarled through the bathroom door.

"How did things go so wrong?" Helen thought as she rocked herself back and forth on the bathroom floor.

Nikki Wade sat in her room staring aimlessly at the TV; she was jolted back to reality when her mobile rang. It was a friend of hers, Fiona Andreas. Fiona and Nikki had gone through pilot training together and she worked for Larkhall International too, on the transatlantic route.


"Hiya bud."

"Fi, how are you?"

"Not too bad, you fancy coming out for a drink tonight with me and the Mrs.? We've both managed to be in the country at the same time!"

"I can't mate sorry. I'm stuck in Paris, there's a strike." Nikki stood up and retrieved her cigarettes; she lit one and sat back down.

"Ah crap, sodding French strikes. Another time then, no worries. You been having fun with any of the stewardesses?" Fiona giggled on the other end of the phone.

"No I haven't!" Nikki replied quickly.

"Why not? You have to get over all this sometime you know, might as well be now Nik. If there's one thing we're blessed with in this company, it's many fine, willing young ladies. Come on, you're a good looking woman when you stop with the scowling!"

"I'm just not ready yet that's all, anyway say hello to Claire for me, I'll see you both for that drink when I get back ok?"

"Yeah alright, take care and go and have some fun! Stop living like a nun eh?"

"You take care too. Bye." Nikki put down the phone. She knew Fiona was right but she just didn't feel ready to socialise with people and preferred to be on her own.

Helen meanwhile had cried herself out and stood up to wash her face, by the time she left the bathroom Thomas had passed out and was snoring away loudly. She decided to go and have a swim in the hotel pool but then remembered the bruises on her arm. She changed into shorts and t-shirt and headed for the gym instead thinking that a good workout would make her feel better.

She walked in to find Nikki going full pelt on one of the treadmills. Selecting the treadmill next to Nikki, she got on and started a slow jog. Nikki knew she was there but didn't acknowledge her. Helen couldn't work out why Nikki was so cold towards people, she had wondered if it was her at first but she behaved towards everybody the same way.

Helen always felt funny whenever she was around Nikki, she didn't know what it was but the woman always elicited the same response. She was determined to get to know Nikki better; she felt she just had to keep going until she could get Nikki to talk to her properly.


Part 3

The next few weeks passed by quickly and Nikki found herself liking Helen more and more. She was a good person to have on the crew; she was lively, warm and had great sense of humour. She was attractive and she knew it but unlike some other women didn't make an issue of it, which Nikki found endearing.

Nikki had found herself slowly warming up to the possibility that she could become friends with her. The idea had formed in her head when she had been sitting in the crew lounge in the airport reading and Helen had sat next to her. They had had a conversation about the book Nikki was reading.

"I'm reading that book too. Do you like it so far?" Helen smiled over the top of the book at Nikki.

"Really? I'm loving it so far but then I love all the books in this series, she is my favourite author." Nikki put the book down and turned towards Helen.

"Mine too, I have all the books and I have read them several times now." Helen was glad to finally have Nikki talking to her, she had found her way in and intended to make full use of the fact.

"Would you like a coffee?"

"I'd love one thanks." Helen smiled in appreciation at Nikki's thoughtful gesture, and then looked around the room wondering where Thomas had gotten to.

Nikki stood at the counter waiting for the coffee and thought about Helen in deeper detail. She was obviously trying hard to get to know her and Nikki decided to drop her defenses a little. She had been thinking about what Fiona said, and thought that maybe the time had come to stop hiding herself away all the time. Not all women were the same and Nikki knew she had to start coming to terms with what had happened, otherwise she would never be free of it. Making new friendships seemed like a good start.

Helen accepted her drink gratefully as Nikki sat back down next to her. They chatted for a while longer, and Helen was surprised to find that the iciness around Nikki's edges had all but disappeared.

"She really is very beautiful when she smiles," Helen thought to herself as Nikki chatted away.

Before long the mood was ruined as Thomas came into the lounge and sat down opposite them. Nikki could tell he didn't seem too happy and wondered what was wrong with him. "What's up with the miserable bastard now?" she thought. It was soon time for them to get on the aircraft, and Nikki busied herself with the pre-flight checks. She had heard a whispered argument just as she was leaving the plane and correctly guessed Thomas was tearing a strip off Helen again.

Settling back into her seat, it wasn't long before they were airborne and at cruising altitude. Unusually for Thomas, he didn't slink off to see what Helen was up to and Nikki thought the argument must have been pretty bad. Shortly afterwards, Nikki excused herself from the flight deck to use the bathroom. As she came out, she spotted a sight that caused her heart to practically stop. Helen was crouching down rifling away in a cabinet for something and Nikki noticed how her skirt had ridden up, giving her a view of Helen's suspenders.

The cabin of the aircraft suddenly shot up several hundred degrees and Nikki struggled to tear her eyes away from Helen's thighs. She managed to just in time as Helen stood up again and noticed her.

"Hiya Nikki, can I do anything for you?" she asked smiling.

"Boy there are plenty of things you could do for me," Nikki thought, but instead she replied, "You could make me a coffee if you have time."

"Yeah no problem, I can bring it into the cockpit when it's ready." She busied herself making the drinks as Nikki scurried back into the cockpit feeling slightly flustered.

Helen came in a minute or two later and handed the coffee to them. Nikki's eyes were involuntarily drawn to Helen's legs, but thankfully Helen hadn't noticed as she was handing Thomas his cup at the time. Thomas however had noticed and didn't seem at all happy.

"Oh Nikki, I forgot to mention but there is a woman back in economy and she is a first time flyer. She's absolutely terrified and I wonder if you wouldn't mind having a talk to her?"

"Let the woman finish her coffee first," Thomas snarled at Helen, who hastily left and closed the door behind her a little too hard before Nikki had chance to reply.

"Just so you know Wade, I don't appreciate you eyeing my wife up. I'm well aware that married women are your sort of thing but keep your eyes off Helen, she belongs to me," he said through gritted teeth.

Nikki didn't reply but just glared at him, she drank back her coffee in one go and then stood up to talk to the frightened passenger. Helen went with her and the woman was indeed terrified.

"Hiya my name is Nikki and I'm the co-pilot. I know this is your first time on an aircraft, and understandably you are anxious about it. I was worse than you when I went for my first flying lesson believe it or not! my legs were like jelly," Nikki said as both Helen and the woman giggled.

"I'm just not really happy about being suspended a few thousand feet in the air that's all," the woman said meekly.

"There really is nothing to be afraid of. Would you like to see the cockpit? might put your mind at rest."

"Oh ok, that would be nice," the woman replied standing up. Nikki led her down the aisle with Helen following.

She pointed out the various bits of safety equipment and radios and the woman seemed to calm down. Nikki talked to her about how safe flying was and explained the causes of turbulence and how common it was. Eventually the woman was smiling and her fear seemed to abate. She thanked Nikki and then left the cockpit with Helen, who had given Nikki a beautiful smile as thanks for helping the woman out.

The aircraft arrived at its destination but they didn't disembark, today's flight would be a quick turnaround and they only had another hour till they pushed back. Thomas carried on being sulky and Nikki left the flight deck eager to get away from him for a bit. She followed Helen to the back of the plane and helped her to tidy up, and then they had a drink while they chatted waiting for the next load of passengers to arrive.

"So, are you going to the airline Christmas party next month then?" Helen enquired as she sipped her coffee.

"I wasn't going to but yeah why not? My friend will be there and I have been promising her for weeks I would have a drink with her."

"Is your friend a pilot too?"

"Yeah she is, she works on the transatlantic routes to New York. She's great; I think you'd like her."

"You will have to introduce me then." Helen smiled up at Nikki, and Nikki was about to reply when another member of the crew walked up to them.

"Don't often see the pilots tidying up like us common folk," Judy Fenner sneered, her father Jim Fenner was one of the directors of the airline and she thought she was something special.

"Yeah well, I like to help where I can," Nikki replied, and Helen noticed the ice queen manner was back.

"You're not married are you?"

"No I'm not." Nikki was getting agitated.

"Didn't think so. Then again it shouldn't surprise me," Judy said with a supercilious expression on her face, she knew all about what had happened.

"Just mind your own bloody business, and keep your nose out of mine," Nikki exploded, then stormed off up the cabin.

"Can't control her temper either." Judy shook her head disdainfully.

"Why did you have to go and upset her?" Helen was getting into full rant mode, but Judy didn't seem to care.

"I can't stand the way she swans around, she is always so horrible to people, it's no wonder they call her the ice queen."

"Just leave her alone, and stop trying to stir up trouble."

"I was just saying," Judy whined.

"Yeah well, just don't say anything and learn to keep your trap shut!" Helen stormed off up the plane in search of Nikki.

Nikki had ducked into a nearby bathroom to calm down. She had suspected that it would get out that she was gay at some point but didn't think it would have happened so soon. She washed her hands and face and tried to calm her breathing. She had heard every word that had been said and felt a sense of gratitude towards Helen wash over her. It hadn't been a mistake becoming friends with Helen at all, in fact it felt to Nikki like she had done the right thing, and goodness knows it had been a long time since she felt she had done anything right. She came out of the bathroom to find Helen waiting for her.

"Are you ok Nikki?"

"Yes I'm fine, really I am." she made the effort to give Helen a smile.

"What was all that about? Why shouldn't it surprise her that you aren't married?" Helen asked the comment had been puzzling her.

"It's nothing, just Judy trying to cause trouble as usual." Nikki brushed the question off.

"Just ignore her, she is always stirring it." Helen placed her hand on Nikki's arm and gave it a gentle squeeze.

"Already forgotten about, right well I better get back and get started on my paperwork." Nikki walked away as Helen watched.

She could tell by the slump of Nikki's shoulders that something was bothering her. Helen felt in time that Nikki would open up to her and maybe then she would find out what was bothering her so much.


Part 4

The weeks preceding the Christmas party had passed by almost in a blur as they had now entered a busy period in the year. They were mad busy as schedules were brought closer together and extra flights were laid on to cope with the sheer volume of passengers passing through the airport. Nikki was really looking forward to the party now, she had made a good friend in Helen and her other friend Fiona was going to be there with her partner Claire Mason who was a flight attendant, on her routes to America.

Nikki had been out and bought a new Armani suit and blouse to go with it. She stood in front of the mirror and checked her appearance; she looked and felt better than she had for a long time.

"Look out girls, Nikki Wade is back!" she stood laughing at herself in the mirror. As cheesy as it sounded, it felt good to be able to say it.

She checked her hair one last time and then bounded down the stairs waiting for her friends to turn up. She downed a shot of vodka to rid herself of the butterflies that were dancing around in her stomach and then opened the door when she heard a knock.

"Stud! Nice to see you at last," she hugged her friend enthusiastically.

"Good to see you too bud! At least you haven't forgotten my nickname." Fiona giggled.

"Yeah well with your turnover rate of females who could forget!"

"That was quite a while ago now, got the ball and chain with me these days!" she laughed referring to her partner Claire.

"I wouldn't let Claire hear you say that, or it might necessitate another trip to Ikea for more plates." Nikki laughed at the look on her friend's face.

"Don't remind me! the last shot was very nearly on target, I could have been maimed!"

"Good job her aim wasn't spot on then wasn't it! Come on lets get going." Nikki ushered Fiona out and locked the door behind her before jumping into the taxi.

By the time they arrived all three were in a party mood. They gave their tickets to the woman on the door and then headed straight to the bar. Nikki ordered three pints and a bottle of tequila, hoping it would keep them going for a while, but knowing that Fiona wasn't your average drinker, she somehow didn't think it would last for long. They found themselves a table and then sat down to have a chat.

"So how is the European route then?" Claire asked as she took a sip of her pint.

"I like it, it's a quick turnaround in most cases but it means more flights per week, having said that I really don't mind." Nikki threw a shot of tequila back and pulled a face as it went down.

"So who's the chief skirt then?" Fiona asked grinning wickedly and got a dig in the ribs from Claire.

"Scottish girl called Helen," Nikki replied smiling at the way Claire glared over at Fiona.

"Helen Stewart? Thomas Waugh's wife?"

"Yeah that's the one."

"She's a nice girl, very easy on the eye eh?" she said dodging Claire's hand.

"Yeah she is attractive I must admit. Dunno what she is doing with a tosser like Thomas though." Nikki took a swig of her pint and shrugged.

"Bit of a miserable sod by all accounts so I've heard." Fiona downed another shot of tequila, and a few mouthfuls of lager. Nikki never failed to be amazed when she went for a drink with her; the woman seemed to have hollow legs. She didn't suffer from hangovers either of which Nikki was extremely jealous.

"He's not a pleasant person to work with, I once flew on a route with him for a few weeks and he treats the crew like idiots," Claire said before standing up to replenish the pints.

"He certainly treats his wife like one; you should hear the way he pushes her around. I'm surprised she puts up with it."

"Oh well they do say love is blind Nik," Fiona replied as Nikki lit up a cigarette.

"If that's the case then somebody should buy her a guide dog." Nikki took a drag of her cigarette as Claire placed a pint in front of her.

They carried on talking until Nikki noticed Helen walk into the room on Thomas's arm. He looked smug and Helen was smiling. "oh well whatever they were having a barney about has obviously been sorted," Nikki thought.

She saw Thomas lead Helen to the table next to theirs and Helen gave Nikki a wave and smiled at her, Nikki waved and smiled back. Thomas looked over at the table, and shook his head.

"See Nikki is sitting over there in the queer corner!" he smirked. Helen looked at him frowning as he walked away, she hadn't picked up on the meaning of his comment.

"She's a bit of alright," Claire said trying not to make it seem to obvious she was looking.

"Oi! don't you start; I get told off for doing the same thing."

"That's different I'm only looking, not lusting," Claire replied as Fiona went to open her mouth to say something, but then thought better of it and returned her attention to her drink.

Nikki tried not to giggle but couldn't help it, and received a frosty look from Fiona for her trouble. She was sitting there silently shaking with the giggles when she felt a tap on her arm.

"Hiya Nikki."

"Helen! Allow me to introduce you to my friends, this is Fiona Andreas, otherwise known as 'stud' and this is her partner Claire Mason, otherwise known as plate woman!" Nikki's giggles quickly started up again as Fiona was frantically making a throat cutting motion with her hand.

"This is Helen Stewart," she said through giggles. Helen shook hands with them and sat down on a chair next to Nikki.

"So how come they call you stud then?" Helen asked with interest.

"Er I really am not sure, I can't remember," Fiona said with an angelic expression on her face.

"It's short for stud muffin cos she thinks she is a lady killer," Claire snorted with laughter.

"Just look at my success rate though!" Fiona quipped and then realised she had said too much as Claire once again glared at her.

"Don't mind those two, they are always bantering back and forth, but they are crazy about each other really." Nikki smiled fondly over at her two friends, who now looked like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Helen looked at them and thought they did make a cute couple, Claire's dark eyes and long, curly red hair contrasted well with her partner's short, dark hair and hazel eyes.

"What about the plate woman thing then?" Helen asked innocently as Nikki exploded into another fit of giggles, Fiona rolled her eyes and waited for the onslaught.

"We call her plate woman because it refers to her choice of weapon when Fi here is in the doghouse." The tears were now rolling down Nikki's face, from having giggled so much.

Helen noticed the immediate change in her; she had never seen Nikki look so animated. Her face positively glowed when she smiled and she was glad she had been here to witness it first hand or she may never have believed it. This was the happiest she had ever seen her in all the months they had worked together and she definitely liked what she was seeing.

Nikki was thinking about how beautiful Helen looked tonight in her short black dress. She took in Helen's shapely legs clad in black tights and was treated to a vision of Helen's legs in suspenders, it still made Nikki hot just thinking about it.

"I've been thinking of switching to cups." Claire grinned as Fiona did a double take at what she had just said.

"Fancy a drink Helen?" Fiona stood up, it was her round.

"Yes please, vodka tonic thanks," she smiled over at Fiona as she went all doe eyed. It was a good job Claire was looking the opposite way.

Nikki noticed Thomas was stood at the bar already well on his way to being pissed and he had only been there half an hour. He was waving his money around smugly as if he was something special. Nikki turned around again and carried on talking to Claire and Helen. They were having fun and were laughing loudly which didn't seem to please Thomas. A while later Helen got the drinks in and brought them back when Thomas sidled over.

"Hello ladies," he slurred as he eyed the group of women with a leer, Nikki could tell it was making Helen uncomfortable.

"Hello Thomas," Nikki replied, trying to ease the tension.

"Mind if I have my lovely wife back, only I would like to dance with her if you don't mind," he said directing the comment at Nikki.

"I er will see you all later, thanks for the drink and the conversation, It was fun." Helen smiled at them apologetically and steered Thomas away.

"Wanker," Fiona said as she downed the rest of her drink. "whose round is it?" she asked grinning.

The night carried on much the same way it had started and they were all having a great time. They had been up and danced a few times and just as they were ready to sit back down, a tall blonde woman approached Nikki. She had spotted her from the other side of the room and fancied taking her home. Nikki panicked and made an excuse, and then the blonde flounced away. Nikki stood up and said something about needing some fresh air and fled outside. She stood leaning up against the wall smoking a cigarette when Fiona appeared.

"You ok mate?" she said as she leaned against the wall next to her.

"Yeah I'm fine, I just panicked. Trouble is she looks a lot like Michelle."

"Yeah I noticed. listen Nik, how long are you gonna let this go on for? You have to start letting it go otherwise you will end up miserable."

"I know, it's easier said than done." Nikki blew out a lungful of smoke, as she looked towards the sky.

She had remembered when she first started dating Michelle when she worked for imperial air. Things were going great and she was convinced they had something special, Nikki was in love with her but it turned out Michelle wasn't on the same wavelength. Nikki was on a flight one day when a voice came over the intercom.

"Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen, your co-pilot today is Nikki Wade, who incidentally has been having a great time shagging my wife behind my back."

Nikki couldn't believe what she was hearing. The voice belonged to the chief steward and she didn't even know he was married let alone that he was married to Michelle. She had wanted the floor of the plane to open up and swallow her through embarrassment, and she felt like her heart was breaking that she had been lied to.

She had confronted Michelle over it but she wasn't interested. As far as she was concerned, she had been caught out and the relationship was no longer any fun because her husband knew. Nikki had handed in her resignation just days later, not being able to cope with the fact that the woman she loved had broken her heart, or the fact that it seemed the entire airline was laughing at her behind her back.

Helen was on the dance floor with Thomas and he was all over her. She pushed him back and asked him to stop because he was embarrassing them both.

"Why can't I kiss you? You are my wife after all," he said tersely.

"Thomas don't start, you have had a bit too much to drink and I don't feel like fighting," Helen said trying to take him back to the table but he refused to go. Helen walked away, intent on just leaving him stood there, but he grabbed her arm and pulled her back.

"Don't you dare walk away from me when I'm talking to you," he said as his grip tightened on her arm.

"Not here Thomas please," she begged him, because people had already started to stare at them. Mindful that people were watching he let go and Helen quickly walked away, she needed some fresh air.

"You and Helen seem to get on well," Fiona remarked as Nikki lit another cigarette.

"Yes we do, I think it's cos we have a lot in common with each other, we like all the same things."

"Do you fancy her?" Fiona asked grinning.

"A woman as gorgeous as Helen and you have to ask me a question like that," Nikki said grinning back at her friend.

"That's a big yes then!"

"Yes I do but it couldn't go anywhere, she's straight and married. I like being friends with her but I think that's as far as her interest goes," Nikki said blowing out smoke, as she tapped her foot against the wall.

Helen stood in the shadows, wiping her tears away. She had gone outside for some fresh air and a private cry when she noticed two voices she recognised, Nikki's and Fiona's. Her heart thudded when she heard that Nikki was gay, and that she was attracted to her. She had been having feelings for Nikki for a while and the realisation that she actually thought of Helen in that way made her want to jump up and down. She understood what Thomas's comment had been about, and Judy's remark about Nikki not being married made sense now. Helen reflected sadly on her situation, she was married to Thomas. She couldn't see a way of it changing no matter how much she wished it would.


Part 5

Helen couldn't stand being cooped up in the house all day with Thomas so she decided to go and do some last minute Christmas shopping. She wandered around in a daze as she window shopped and really hadn't gotten very far when she bumped into a by now familiar face.

"Ooops sorry!" Helen automatically apologised and looked up to see Nikki smiling at her.

"Hello Helen." Nikki took her hand away from where she had gripped Helen's arm to stop her from falling over.

"Sorry Nikki, I didn't see you there." Helen was slightly flustered, Nikki was the last person she expected to see and her stomach was doing somersaults.

"It's ok, no damage done. So doing some Christmas shopping?"

"Yeah I was trying to but, I'm afraid my mind isn't on it," Helen said although she didn't elaborate on why exactly that was.

"No, same as me. I was just going home as it happens, fancy coming back to my place for a coffee?"

"I'd like that." Helen gave Nikki a dazzling smile and her knees turned to jelly.

Helen followed Nikki to her house and she felt like a teenager. The feelings had been getting stronger as time went on, and they had drastically intensified since she had found out that Nikki was gay and attracted to her. Unable to keep her mind on anything else these days, Nikki featured an awful lot in her thoughts, and especially her dreams. Things had never been great with Thomas but just lately they had taken a turn for the worse. With Nikki she felt like the person she used to be, not like the person she had become, trapped in a marriage with a man who no longer seemed to be the person he once was.

Helen found to her surprise that she and Nikki were very much on the same wavelength. She had had time to get to know Nikki better once she had dropped the ice queen routine, and they often had the same point of view on life. She felt like Nikki understood her, and for once she was having conversations with somebody who knew what she was talking about, it was almost like she was talking to another part of herself.

She pulled herself out of her thoughts as she came to a stop outside Nikki's house. She followed her up the path and through to the living room, where she sat while Nikki put the kettle on. Helen gazed around the room; she was intrigued by Nikki's decoration and choice of furnishings. It was exactly what Helen would have picked herself, uncluttered but warm and inviting. She examined Nikki's book and cd collection and it was more or less the same as her own, she was getting more of a feel for the type of person she was away from work.

Nikki stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle to boil; she never expected to have Helen sit in her living room. The thought of Helen in her house was doing funny things to her stomach; she was having visions of what it would be like to be able to have her around the place on a more permanent basis. Nikki tried to stop thinking along those lines; Helen was straight and married after all. She still couldn't help wondering what it would be like to wake up to her every morning, and be the last person she saw at night before she went to sleep.

Nikki hadn't had feelings like this before, not even about Michelle. These feelings were so much more intense, Nikki couldn't explain it but it felt like finding something you didn't know existed. You always dreamed it would, but never really quite believed it. When you found that it did, it was so much better than your expectations. It didn't make much sense to her but she was clear on how she felt.

"There you go, white no sugar right?"

"Spot on thanks Nik." Helen took the cup from Nikki and placed it on the coffee table in front of her.

"I really enjoyed the party the other night, haven't had that much fun in ages." Nikki took a sip of her coffee and crossed her long legs as she settled back into her chair.

"I really like Fiona and Claire, they are a great couple," Helen said sincerely, both women had made a big impression on her.

"Yeah they are aren't they? You impressed them too, Fiona keeps going on about how nice you are." Nikki smiled, remembering her friends soppy expression as she had talked to Helen.

"Do you go out with them often?"

"Not as often as I would like no," Nikki said being slightly economical with the truth, she had pretty much been on her own since the incident with Michelle. It wasn't that she didn't want to see her friends but she had formed a protective shell around herself, and it wasn't easy to get rid of.

"I'm really sorry about this Nikki but I have to go, I told Thomas that I would be back soon and that was 4 hours ago." Helen looked at her watch and then quickly drank the rest of her coffee and stood up.

"No problem, my door is always open so any time you fancy a chat just pop round." Nikki showed Helen to the door, and was surprised when Helen reached out to give her a peck on the cheek.

"I'll do that, thanks Nikki. See you at work."

"Yeah see you soon," Nikki replied and then waved at Helen as she drove away.

The next few days passed quickly in a haze of activity, and neither Nikki nor Helen had much free time. The flights were packed out with Christmas travelers who were making their way to be with friends and family for the holidays. Nikki loved this time of year, there was always an air of excitement amongst the passengers and it got everybody into the spirit of things. Helen also preferred this time of year, the passengers were less grumpy and demanding and she found it easier to get on with them because they were friendlier.

It was soon Christmas and Helen was off to spend Christmas with Thomas's parents again. She had wanted to spend Christmas with her parents this year but Thomas sulked until she gave in. For the third year running she had to tell her parents that she was working and couldn't make it. She didn't want to tell them the truth because she knew how upset they would be, she silently cursed Thomas for being selfish. She spent Christmas day watching Thomas show off in front of his parents, and it made her sick how they spoilt him.

Nikki on the other hand had been invited over to Fiona's house, and was sat having a conversation about how great Claire's roast potatoes were.

"I'm telling you Nik, Claire does the greatest roasties on the planet."

"I can't wait to try them, but you have never tasted my mum's. She does the nicest ones I have ever tasted."

Nikki and Fiona continued arguing over whose roast potatoes were best until Claire came from the kitchen waving a wooden spoon at them.

"If you two don't shut up then you will be eating your Christmas dinner from paper plates!" she threatened them and disappeared back into the kitchen leaving a much more silent Nikki and Fiona behind.

"Not another word about potatoes! you know what she will do," Nikki whispered.

"Yeah, it doesn't bear thinking about!" Fiona whispered back and shuddered, she could quite easily visualise a plate in slow motion as it flew through the air towards her.

After dinner they sat down in front of the TV, feeling stuffed. Fiona passed the drinks around and they started on the task of getting shandycapped. Meanwhile, Helen had gotten back from Thomas parents and was sitting listening to Thomas snoring away on the sofa across the room. He had drunk too much again, which wasn't anything new these days, she sat thinking about Nikki and wondered what kind of a day she had had.

She had gotten a call from Nikki that morning wishing her a merry Christmas, she had just been reaching over to call Nikki when the phone had rung, startling her. She knew Nikki was going over to Fiona's house. "oh well at least one of us is going to have fun today," she thought.

She picked up her book and started to read, ignoring the noises Thomas was making from across the room. She knew that in a couple of hours he would be awake and ready to start drinking all over again, and decided if that happened then she would go to bed early and leave him to it.

Nikki was now crashed out snoring in the spare room, before going up to bed she had helped Claire drag a sniggering Fiona up the stairs. She was well trolleyed, but Nikki knew that in the morning she would be as right as rain and hangover free. The same couldn't be said for her, she knew she would wake up feeling rough.

Thomas had woken up and started on the vodka, and then worked his way through that before starting on the whisky. Helen said she was feeling tired and had gone up to bed to let him get on with it, she had no desire to sit there watching him get pissed. She knew if she hung around long enough he would find a reason to start an argument and she didn't have the energy to defend herself against him. She closed her eyes, as she lay back, and her thoughts were filled with Nikki.

Part 6

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